Thursday, June 26, 2008

Nina Ricci

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A melancholy lyricism often wafts through Olivier Theyskens work. One could feel it last season, despite the pale palette and ample athletic references in his lovely debut at Nina Ricci. The mood became more pronounced this time out in a breathtaking collection that felt both ethereal and consummately modern.

In a season of elaborate staging, Theyskens cut a window in the back of his tent in the Tuilleries Gardens, letting nature provide his set. This proved particularly apropos because he envisioned his girls as wood nymphs coming home from a ball. But, he said, “The ball is a rave, a rave in nature.”

Whatever event specifics Theyskens’ imaginary party planner intended, they allowed for an aura of gentle dishevelment, disorientation even, as the girls wandered in from the greenery outside between two smooth faux-concrete walls. They might have been tired from the evening’s revelry; they might have been under the influence of something more potent than the light of the silvery moon. Their hair was plastered down on top under wreaths of branches and feathers, their clothes, dark washes of apparently random arrangements that may have gotten disassembled and reassembled somewhat askew as the party roared on, pillbox hats, face veils and boas heightening the eccentricity.

It all had an intriguing carelessness which Theyskens kept from getting too messy — muted washed silk dresses that hung or clung this way or that; big jackets split in back with tulip openings; skinny pants and the occasional edgy T-shirt for a subversive hint of rock ’n’ roll, a full-on ballgown under the warmth of a beaten-up blanket. Yet despite the haphazard tone, the constructions were astonishing, especially evident for evening — a simple white silk number with black banding that fell into a deep collar over elaborate layers in back; an exquisitely pleated silver metallic bustier.

It all had a rich, earthy resonance and a shameless romance seldom found in the upper echelons of fashion. Theyskens has brought something very special to those ranks, and Nina Ricci is one lucky maison to have him in residence.

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